As I’ve taken a lot of trips, both on a budget and on my parents’ budget, I thought I’d detail some of my planning tips. I’ll divide into group, dual, and solo trips, and in each say what to and what not to do based on my experience. Whether you want to plan (almost) everything meticulously or want to fly by the seat of your pants, I’ve got a little something for everyone.

Large group

First, do make sure you get a sense of the group dynamic and what would work best with each personality. Are they frugal? It’d be good to plan out the essentials months before, like flights, hostels, etc. to get the best deals. Then have everyone buy their plane tickets! Cheapskates will be likely to wait until they know it will be possibly to travel frugally and if they wait that long, the flights will be too expensive and they won’t want to go anymore. Catch 22, huh? So, I’ve learned to get the very basics and some tempting characteristics, like nearby beaches or festivals during the time you’ll be there, to get others excited enough they’ll want to come along.

Where to Sleep:
It may be tempting to gets hostel and in many cases that’s the best thing to do. This will depend on your travel schedule and the city. However, for groups of say 4 or more where you’ll be in an area for a week or so, I recommend renting a condo or apartment. Tons of regular people are doing this nowadays, especially in big popular European cities or beach towns. My experience is mostly in Paris and Barcelona, but I’ve heard of people doing this in Portugal, Croatia, and my parents have done this many times in Mexico and on ski trips out west.  With Craigslist, I ended up renting a studio from an art curator in Barcelona right near an awesome market, the Boqueria, and a room from a really nice couple in Lisbon, both for about the price of a youth hostel when split with a friend.  Or searching for apartment rentals online can turn up some awesome stuff, like this place in Greece or this one in Paris (although less on the frugal side…).

Awesome resources:
Actually, in my experience, the best ways to find a cost-effective method is Wikitravel and the Lonely Planet series. A lot of the time I won’t get a specific place from Wikitravel, but I’ll get an idea of what types of places are cheapest and yet not too sketchy. The Lonely Planet Beijing was the reason I wasn’t constantly lost when I was there.  I’ve found mostly great restaurants but also some hostels and hotels.  I do not, unfortunately, recommend the iPhone app, as I felt the books were much better organized.  Once after I found a great cheap place on the tiny Greek island of Skopelos, I was totally lost as to what was there.  My trusty Lonely Planet even had some dinner advice for my small side of the island, Glossa, and it ended up being spot-on.  I was impressed.

That’s it for now, I’ll work on the second installment soon enough…